Some have presented the notion that Jesus Christ’s pre-mortal name is Jehovah as a recent doctrine of the church. But modern day revelation makes it clear that it was understood more than 2 millennia ago.
I Talmage’s Understanding of Jehovah
“American Jesus, How the Son of God Became a National Icon” by Stephen Prothero, a professor at Boston University contained a chapter on Mormons. In it, the author asserts that Talmage is the person that determined Jesus and Jehovah are the same beings.
The most important contribution of the book [Jesus the Christ], however, was it bold thesis that “Jesus Christ is Jehovah.”… This understanding of Jesus, which had been incubating among Mormons since the 1870s, became official Mormon theology in 1916, when LDS authorities adopted it in a formal statement, drafted by Talmage, on “The Father and the Son.” (pp. 190 – 191)
This was interesting to me, and as I looked at Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith and Discourses of Brigham Young, I could see very few things said about Jehovah. So, it could be very true that this doctrine was not well articulated before Talmage. However, this quote makes it sound as if Talmage made up or created the doctrine.
Upon further research, it is difficult to refute this doctrine. Although no scripture says specifically that Jesus Christ’s pre-mortal name was Jehovah, the doctrine is clearly taught. It is an example of the scriptures containing more knowledge that we understand.
D&C 110 contains what I think is the clearest indications of this doctrine.
3 His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the voice of Jehovah, saying:
4 I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father.
“I am he who was slain!” That clearly is Christ speaking. It is hard to imagine it being anyone else. Joseph must have understood it based upon seeing in this vision the same person he saw in the First Vision. Perhaps he just never elaborated the doctrine further.
Let’s review the other evidences of this doctrine.
Nephi must have understood that it was the God of the Old Testament that would come down among men.
10 And the God of our fathers, who were led out of Egypt, out of bondage, and also were preserved in the wilderness by him, yea, the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, yieldeth himself, according to the words of the angel, as a man, into the hands of wicked men, to be lifted up, according to the words of Zenock, and to be crucified, according to the words of Neum, and to be buried in a sepulchre, according to the words of Zenos, which he spake concerning the three days of darkness, which should be a sign given of his death unto those who should inhabit the isles of the sea, more especially given unto those who are of the house of Israel.
III King Benjamin
King Benjamin certainly understood this, when he described the “Lord Omnipotent” coming down among the children of men. He then, two chapters later, identifies him specifically as Christ.
5 For behold, the time cometh, and is not far distant, that with power, the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity, shall come down from heaven among the children of men, and shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay, and shall go forth amongst men, working mighty miracles, such as healing the sick, raising the dead, causing the lame to walk, the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear, and curing all manner of diseases.
15 Therefore, I would that ye should be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works, that Christ, the Lord God Omnipotent, may seal you his, that you may be brought to heaven, that ye may have everlasting salvation and eternal life, through the wisdom, and power, and justice, and mercy of him who created all things, in heaven and in earth, who is God above all. Amen.
Moroni understood that Jehovah as the judge.
34 And now I bid unto all, farewell. I soon go to rest in the paradise of God, until my spirit and body shall again reunite, and I am brought forth triumphant through the air, to meet you before the pleasing bar of the great Jehovah, the Eternal Judge of both quick and dead. Amen.
I think Moroni would have understood who the judge is from this scripture.
14 And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil—
V The Savior
As one would expect, The Savior teaches the doctrine at first opportunity in 3 Nephi, as he introduces himself to the Nephites
13 And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto them saying:
14 Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world.
To make sure we don’t misunderstand, he repeats himself later.
5 Behold, I am he that gave the law, and I am he who covenanted with my people Israel;….
VI Joseph Smith
At the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, Joseph prayed, mentioning Jehovah.
68 O Lord, remember thy servant, Joseph Smith, Jun., and all his afflictions and persecutions—how he has covenanted with Jehovah, and vowed to thee, O Mighty God of Jacob—and the commandments which thou hast given unto him, and that he hath sincerely striven to do thy will.
Perhaps Joseph was referring to the Son and the Father in this reference.
In Section 128, Joseph explains about the sealing power, and mentions the “decrees of the great Jehovah.”
9 It may seem to some to be a very bold doctrine that we talk of—a power which records or binds on earth and binds in heaven. Nevertheless, in all ages of the world, whenever the Lord has given a dispensation of the priesthood to any man by actual revelation, or any set of men, this power has always been given. Hence, whatsoever those men did in authority, in the name of the Lord, and did it truly and faithfully, and kept a proper and faithful record of the same, it became a law on earth and in heaven, and could not be annulled, according to the decrees of the great Jehovah. This is a faithful saying. Who can hear it?
A few sections later, the revelations detail what those decrees are regarding the sealing power. Although section 132 was recorded after section 128 was written, the heading makes it clear that the doctrines were understood by Joseph much earlier. Perhaps these ideas are what Joseph was referring two in section 128.
After the great verse on the sealing power, in verse 7 of section 132, where the Lord details how binding is the sealing power and how limited are all other powers, the Savior clearly pointed out who was speaking in the revelation.
11 And will I appoint unto you, saith the Lord, except it be by law, even as I and my Father ordained unto you, before the world was?
And so, if it is the Savior speaking in giving the revelation (the first person “I” above), then who was it that spoke to Abraham on this subject in the Old Testament? It is the same “I”.
35 Was Abraham, therefore, under condemnation? Verily I say unto you, Nay; for I, the Lord, commanded it.
The Book of Abraham, another modern day book of revelation, makes this clear.
16 And his voice was unto me: Abraham, Abraham, behold, my name is Jehovah, and I have heard thee, and have come down to deliver thee, and to take thee away from thy father’s house, and from all thy kinsfolk, into a strange land which thou knowest not of;
It should be clear from the scriptures that Jesus Christ and Jehovah are one and the same individual.
Guide Us, O Thou Great Jehovah (83)
Text: William Williams
Music: John Hughes
Scriptures: Exodus 13:21-22; Doctrine and Covenants 45:57
Guide us, O thou great Jehovah,
Guide us to the promised land.
We are weak, but thou art able;
Hold us with thy pow’rful hand.
Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit,
Feed us till the Savior comes.
Feed us till the Savior comes.
Open, Jesus, Zion’s fountains;
Let her richest blessings come.
Let the fiery, cloudy pillar
Guard us to this holy home.
Great Redeemer, Great Redeemer,
Bring, oh, bring the welcome day!
Bring, oh, bring the welcome day!
When the earth begins to tremble,
Bid our fearful thoughts be still;
When thy judgments spread destruction,
Keep us safe on Zion’s hill,
Singing praises, Singing praises,
Songs of glory unto thee,
Songs of glory unto thee.
- Gen. 2:4 Lord God made the earth and the heavens
- Gen. 4:26 began men to call upon the name of the Lord
- Gen. 22:14 Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-jireh
- Gen. 28:13 (Ex. 3:6) I am the Lord God of Abraham
- Ex. 3:14 (John 8:58; D&C 29:1; 38:1; 39:1) God said … I Am That I Am
- Ex. 6:3 by my name J. was I not known
- Ps. 68:4 sing praises to his name … JAH
- Ps. 83:18 thou, whose name alone is J.
- Ps. 96:13 Lord … cometh to judge the earth
- Isa. 6:1 (2 Ne. 16:1) I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne
- Isa. 12:2 (26:4; 2 Ne. 22:2) Lord J. is my strength
- Isa. 41:4 I the Lord, the first, and with the last
- Isa. 41:14 (43:14; 44:6; 49:26; 54:5; 60:16; Hosea 13:4; 2 Ne. 11:2) Lord, and thy redeemer, the Holy One
- Isa. 43:11 (45:21) Lord, and beside me there is no saviour
- Isa. 45:17 Israel shall be saved in the Lord
- Jonah 1:9 Lord, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea
- 1 Ne. 21:26 (22:12) Lord, am thy Savior … the Mighty One of Jacob
Initial writing finished May 30, 2005
[The following entry about Elder Bruce R. McConkie was made at a similar time; I don’t think it warrants it’s own entry, so I think I will put it here, as it was developed while reading the same book.]
This entry contains thoughts about one of the more controversial figures in modern LDS history, Elder Bruce R. McConkie. Elder McConkie was a polarizing member of the church, still revered by stalwart members of the church, and criticized by marginal members and non-members.
Elder McConkie’s biography by his son, Joseph Fielding McConkie, notes that Elder McConkie felt that it is as important as who one’s friends are as who one’s enemies are. The following shows what sway some of the criticism of Elder McConkie has over certain writings.
I once read a chapter about the Mormon’s view of Jesus Christ in a book titled “American Jesus, How the Son of God Became a National Icon” by Stephen Prothero, a professor at Boston University. I found it interesting, but slightly off base. I thought the progression in the churches emphasis on the Savior was enlightening. But I thought it made too much of that progression, or made the progression a bit too pronounced, and glossed over the reasons for it. (See Jesus Christ, Jehovah [the above entry] for additional comments on this book.)
But one of the most interesting things I saw within the book was the reaction of non-members to Bruce R. McConkie. I found it very interesting what story the author of the book chose to tell about him.
The first mention of McConkie is when the author acknowledges that McConkie wrote a “massive” book on the Savior. Then a few pages later, he recounts McConkie’s talk at BYU in 1982 about care in developing a personal relationship the Savior.
McConkie, who has been described as a Mormon fundamentalist, was committed to preserving the LDS Church as the key channel of grace, the key avenue for exaltation to godhood. That meant rejecting the solus Jesus approach that for decades had characterized much of American Christianity…. (p 192)
Elder McConkie was supposedly chastised (no source citations for this) and then says, “…Even McConkie seemed chastened, gravitating toward more christocentric language as his health failed.” (p. 192)
I read this book just a month or so after having started the first book in his “Mortal Messiah” series. Just the opening chapter of the book is so much more laudative of the Savior than anything in Elder Talmage’s “Jesus the Christ.” And the book wasn’t written after the speech in 1982, it was published in 1979.
This section of the chapter is in the middle of explaining an increase in the focus on the Savior in the 70’s and 80’s inside the church. Certainly Elder McConkie was part of that process. But instead of focusing on his role in that (which must have been enormous), the author has somehow picked out this incident, depicting it as a big mistake on McConkie’s part. He has chosen to rely upon undocumented sources, and cite a minor publication of almost no importance (the Seventh Street Press in Provo) to make his point. He didn’t even list McConkie’s Messiah series in the bibliography. Why is that?
Listen to this statement at the end of the talk by Elder McConkie:
Now I sincerely hope that no one will imagine that I have in the slightest degree downgraded the Lord Jesus in the scheme of things. I have not done so. As far as I know there is not a man on earth who thinks more highly of him than I do. It just may be that I have preached more sermons, taught more doctrine, and written more words about the Lord Jesus Christ than any other man now living. I have ten large volumes in print, seven of which deal almost entirely with Christ, and the other three with him and his doctrines (devotional address at Brigham Young University on 2 March 1982. Copyright 1982, BYU. See http://speeches.byu.edu)
As I study the talk, Elder McConkie was not so much trying to maintain the church as a “channel of grace” as he was dealing with an imbalance in stressing one member of the Godhead over another.